ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Mohammadmian Soomro has appealed the nation to focus on conservation of energy both, electricity and gas to help check price hikes, reduce energy import bill and improve environments. He emphasized on avoiding the use of personal vehicle unnecessarily, use of energy saver bulbs and essential use of gas. These conservation efforts, he said, have to become part of our national habit till we are able to overcome the energy crisis.
Chairing a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet (ECC) here on Tuesday, the Prime Minister said, “We are living in an inhospitable global environment, which is likely to impact our economy. Therefore, we need to analyze and plan for the upcoming challenges.” The ECC also reviewed the wheat and atta situation in the country and reiterated the government’s resolve to ensure adequate availability of atta to the common man. Soomro directed the provincial governments and the law enforcement agencies to take strict action against the wheat hoarders and stock holders through imposing penalties.
The ECC approved recommendations of the Sub-Committee/Steering Committee of the ECC regarding Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) Gas Pipeline Project. The Prime Minister while according approval to Pakistan – Iran Gas Pipeline Agreement said without reliable sources of energy the future progress, development and prosperity cannot be realized.
He appreciated the efforts of Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources as well as all those involved in the negotiations and finalization of agreement with Iran for Gas Supply to Pakistan. The Gas Pipeline agreement, the Prime Minister said, is a timely decision and it is high time we start taking decisions at appropriate time as delay could add to the cost of the project as well as our needs.
He asked the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources to complete formalities of the project. The ECC commended the efforts of the present Secretary and the former Secretaries and the Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources to make this project a reality. The Prime Minister said that the country needed much more energy to overcome the gap in demand and supply and also reduce the cost of power generation with the help of gas project. He also directed the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources to work out plans for improving energy efficiency in collaboration with the Ministry of Industries and developing alternate sources of energy.
The Governor, State Bank of Pakistan briefed the ECC on the recent report released by the Bank on balance of payments position and the overall economic situation. The ECC was informed that in spite of the unprecedented hike in global oil prices and recent political development in the country, the economy has shown greater resilience.
The Prime Minister said that despite challenges and shocks, Pakistan is doing well economically and we should continue to make hard efforts with a focused approach to sustain economic progress. The next six months would be crucial for the macro economic management of our economy particularly the policy of subsidizing oil, power and food items, he said.
The Chairman, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) apprised the ECC on the performance of the FBR in collection of tax revenue. He informed the ECC that in the month of December 2007, due to disturbances and extended Eid holidays coupled with load-shedding and gas shortages, there has been reduction in tax collection. This has reduced growth of tax collection from 14.8 percent in the first five months of the financial year to 4.7 percent in the last six months (July-December 2007).
The Prime Minister directed the FBR to take steps for improving Tax-to-GDP collection ratio as Pakistan is among the countries having lower ratio. While appreciating the performance of FBR in tax collection, the Prime Minister said we still need to put in extra efforts to identify impediments for broadening of tax basis and collection of revenues in an efficient manner. He also asked that the support of all the stakeholders may also be sought in this regard to further improve the system.
The ECC was also briefed on the country’s exports during the first five months of the current financial year by the Secretary, Commerce. He informed the ECC that special export zones set up by the government have shown better results and the country has registered 10.5 percent growth in exports compared to the corresponding five months of the last year. He further informed the ECC that within the next six months, Pakistan’s exports performance is likely to improve further.
The Prime Minister directed the Ministry of Commerce to launch aggressive initiatives for boosting up exports of the country and also look for diversification of exports. As regards efforts to increase the exports, Soomro emphasized to modernize the country’s industry to be able to improve products and compete in the international markets. Pakistan, he said, has the capability and the country needs to increase its capacity.
Highlighting the need for reducing imports on edible oil, the Prime Minister directed the ECC to look into the possibility of utilization of the long coastal line of the country to grow palm trees. The ECC was informed that the international prices of palm oil have gone up by more than US $ 1000 per ton since January 2007.-SANA